Comparative Cell Biology in Diplomonads
Abstract: The diplomonads are a diverse group of eukaryotic flagellates found in microaerophilic and anaerobic environments. The most studied diplomonad is the intestinal parasite Giardia intestinalis, which infects a variety of mammals and cause diarrheal disease. Less is known about Spironucleus salmonicida, a parasite of salmonid fish, known to cause systemic infections with high mortality.We created a transfection system for S. salmonicida to study cellular functions and virulence in detail (Paper I). The system was applied to explore the mitochondrion-related organelle (MRO) in S. salmonicida. We showed that S. salmonicida possesses a hydrogenosome (Paper II) with a higher metabolic capacity than the corresponding MRO of Giardia, the mitosome. Evolutionary analysis of key hydrogenosomal proteins showed ancient origin, indicating their presence in the ancestral diplomonad and subsequent loss in Giardia. Annexins are of evolutionary interest since these proteins are found across all kingdoms. Annexin-like proteins are intriguingly expanded into multigene families in Giardia and Spironucleus. The annexins of S. salmonicida were characterized (Paper III) with distinct localizations to various cellular structures, including a putative adhesion structure anterior in the cell.The disease-causing Giardia trophozoites differentiate into infectious cysts, a process essential for transmission and virulence of the parasite. Cysts are often spread via contaminated water and exposed to environmental stressors, such as UV irradiation. We studied the survival and transcriptional response to this stress factor (Paper IV) and results showed the importance of active DNA replication machinery for parasite survival after DNA damage. In addition, we studied transcriptional changes along the trajectory of encystation (Paper V), which revealed a coordinated cascade of gene regulation. This was observed for the entire transcriptome as well as putative regulators. Large transcriptional changes appeared late in the process with the majority of differentially regulated genes encoding hypothetical proteins. We studied the localizations of several of these to gain information of their possible function.To conclude, the diplomonads are complex eukaryotic microbes with cellular processes adjusted to match their life styles. The work in this thesis has provided insight of their adaptations, differences and similarities, but also new interesting leads for future studies of diplomonad biology and virulence.
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